Halfway to Halloween, inside Haddonfield Memorial High School stadium, the Haddons were hosting Colonial Conference rival Sterling High School.
On the gridiron, there are winners and losers, but just inside the front gates during a warm October evening, there were only winners: members of the community who contributed to Operation Yellow Ribbon; the two dedicated parents who manned the operation; and eventually, American servicemen and women stationed abroad who will soon receive the outpouring of support.
“We are coming back. We made it through COVID last year, and our donations and fundraisers are helping already,” noted Marybeth Gotthold, a long-time OYR volunteer and military mother.
Spearheaded by the Haddonfield Football Booster Club, the donation drive has the backing of senior moms and coaches. The Haddons feature 12 graduating seniors who wanted to do something special to give back to other families.
Gotthold is tempering her expectations, but she’s hopeful the community can come back with donations that rival those of two years ago, before the pandemic put a dent in disposable income. Nonetheless, she displayed several foldable boxes, each approximately 24 inches long, 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep.
The expectation is that all the boxes, which can hold up to 40 pounds of material, will be filled to the brim with items such as coffee; toiletries; snacks and other nonperishable foods, along with personal hygiene products.
All cash donations will help defray shipping costs that are substantial given the weight and distance of each package. One box in the size and shape described above cost $35 to ship.
“So far, it’s been a great turnout,” Gotthold mentioned as the Haddons played to a cheering crowd. “We’re all over doing these things now. People are doing them for birthday parties, it’s in the schools, and we have students making cards to send with the boxes.”
Those little lifelines connecting service personnel to home are sure to help Gotthold’s son, a captain in the Air Force who served in Afghanistan and is currently stationed in the African nation of Djibouti.
“That’s why we’re a part of this organization,” she stated. “We’re in it until everyone comes home.”
Three days later, football mom Nancy Benson-Tarquini reported that four whole boxes of donations had arrived from the first football game alone.
In between dropoff points at football games, items were to be collected at Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School and at the high school. Benson-Tarquini’ son, senior Noah Benson-Tarquini, was to pick up the items from there and his mother was expected to collect from the elementary school, where she is a special-education instructor.
If the plaques outside the high school’s front entrance and the memorials to war dead on the grounds of the high school aren’t enough to drive home the point of sacrifices made by military personnel, Benson-Tarquini thinks the locally sourced and direct method will make an impact.
“I just think it’s important for our children in Haddonfield to know that there are military personnel all over the world, keeping them safe,” she explained. “That’s part of why the Haddonfield seniors and the Haddonfield senior moms wanted to be part of this.
“Marybeth has taken care of our children, as a preschool teacher and she’s literally had hundreds of our children in her care,” Benson-Tarquini added. “So we wanted to do something for her children.”
Operation Yellow Ribbon was to continue for a second week on Oct. 22, when the Haddons were set to host Collingswood. For more information on where and how to contribute, contact Benson-Tarquini at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 220-1403.